Paul Ryan Turns Focus From Trump to House Races, Roiling G.O.P.

Screen Shot 2016-10-11 at 7.54.51 AMALEXANDER BURNS

JONATHAN MARTIN

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Good Tuesday morning.
The House speaker, Paul D. Ryan, dealt a hammer blow to Donald J. Trump’s  presidential candidacy on Monday, dashing any remaining semblance of Republican unity and inviting a fierce backlash from his own caucus by announcing that he would no longer defend Mr. Trump.
Mr. Ryan’s stance drew an immediate rebuke from Mr. Trump, who posted on Twitter that Mr. Ryan should focus on governing “and not waste his time on fighting Republican nominee.”
Mr. Ryan informed Republican lawmakers on a morning conference call that he would never again campaign for Mr. Trump and would dedicate himself instead to defending the party’s majority in Congress, according to five lawmakers who participated in the call and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Effectively conceding defeat for his party in the presidential race, Mr. Ryan said his most urgent task was ensuring that Hillary Clinton did not take the helm with Democratic control of the House and Senate, two lawmakers said.
The reaction from hard-liners was swift and angry. Over the course of an hour, a stream of conservative lawmakers urged their colleagues not to give up on Mr. Trump and chided Mr. Ryan for what they described as surrendering prematurely in the presidential race. Mr. Trump’s campaign is reeling after a disastrous two weeks that culminated in the release on Friday of a 2005 recording in which he bragged about sexual assault.
One of the conservatives, Representative Dana Rohrabacher of California, attacked the Republicans stepping away from Mr. Trump as “cowards,” three lawmakers said. Another, Representative Trent Franks of Arizona, said, using graphic language to describe abortion, that allowing Mrs. Clinton into the White House would end with fetuses being destroyed “limb from limb.”
Trying to quiet the uproar, Mr. Ryan interjected after about 45 minutes to assure members that he was not withdrawing his endorsement of Mr. Trump, but rather doing what he felt was in the best interests of the House.
For five months, Mr. Ryan and Mr. Trump have alternated between friction and courtship, eventually forging an uneasy working relationship only to see it collapse now, in the final weeks of the race.
Ash Lee Strong, a spokeswoman for Mr. Ryan, confirmed that his sole priority for the remainder of the election would be defending congressional Republicans. “The speaker is going to spend the next month focused entirely on protecting our congressional majorities,” she said.
Mr. Trump did not repeat his Twitter jab at Mr. Ryan at a campaign event in Pennsylvania on Monday afternoon, offering instead a red-meat diatribe unlikely to appeal beyond his dedicated base.
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